It was a crisp spring morning. Opening day for Westport Little League. I pulled on my brand new uniform for the very first time. My family dropped me off at the field behind Colytown Junior High. There is nothing like a quality glove, an extension of my hand, my arm, my whole being.
Indeed there was excitement in the air. The spectators were filling up the stands. I went through the motions of warming up behind the dugout. My biggest concern was getting more power into my fastball. My hands weren’t quite big enough yet so as to serve a proper knuckle-ball but my curve and slider were world class, or so I thought at the time. I was 11 years old.
Our coach gathered us all around, “Tracy will be the starting pitcher,” he said. One or two of the other kids snickered. I wasn’t exactly sure I was ready—this was my first season in the older kids league. I was at that age when a boy becomes aware of himself physically in relation to the other boys. I had always been good at sports but it was becoming apparent that some of the other boys were growing faster, taller and stronger.
Up till then, this was the most important day of my life. I was seriously thinking about going pro but was just in the very twilight of my budding career. My idols were most certainly the Yankees; Bucky Dent, Catfish Hunter, Chris Chamblis, Mickey Rivers…; the World Champions. I absolutely detested the Red Sox.
I chomped feverishly on 3 full pieces of Bazooka Bubble Gum; sugary saliva trickling from the corners of my mouth. Walking out to the mound I couldn’t help but to feel, a little bit, all alone out there. “Go Todd,” a girl called out from the stands. I was aware of everybody watching. “Was I ready for this?” I asked myself.
The catcher came up to me with ball in hand and placed it in my glove, “just like we’ve been doing at practice,” the big kid said as he looked into my eyes.
I had an original sort of wind up, or so I thought at the time. A very high left leg up, a pivot with the right, I snapped back with my wrist—swung my head around and got the first pitch off.
“Steeeee—rike,” the umpire shouted adjusting his massive weight thrusting his finger and arm quite pointedly in that manner that indicates that the pitch was right-up-the-middle.
The kid I was pitching to, one of the Pontiacs, was much bigger than me. He looked like he was 13 or 14. I had never seen him before. He didn’t seem very nervous. I definitely had butterflies in my stomach. When he was ready at the plate I started my motion. Whipping around I got the second pitch off. If there was one thing about my pitching it was control. I could put that ball right over the plate. The batter took a swing at it—thwack–soaring homer right out-of-the-park.
The other team jumped out of their seats. I saw him rounding the bases with a swagger as yet unseen from my position on the mound. I gave up many runs that day. I think it must be a Westport Little League record. We lost 54 to 13. No one knew why the coach didn’t take me out earlier. He kept me in as I gave up homer after homer. I was completely demoralized. I had no power. All my hopes and dreams were dashed in an afternoon. I never pitched again. In fact, baseball began to wane from my attention from that day on. I just didn’t have the power to compete.
I learned very valuable lessons on that day. I don’t know what they are because I haven’t thought about baseball very much since then.
However, full retribution has been realized having watched the Westport little Leaguers this week. I’m getting back into it. Wow, the Little League World Series!!!!. Westport just kicks so much ass!!!!
Did you see how the California kids looked like they were in collage or something—against our 12 year olds!!!?.
For the first time in many years, many many years, I am soooo proud to have once been a Westport born-and-bred baseball player. See you at the parade on Main Street at 5 on Monday!!!!